There are certain places in Italy, that even with all their history or endless stories, should simply be admired.
These cities/towns ooze history but more impressively, they shine with a unique beauty and I can assure you, l’Isola di Ortigia is one of these places.
Due to EuropCar screwing up with our rental car, we only had less than 24 hours to explore, as we had to catch the bus to Palermo!
A Brief Look at L’Isola di Ortigia, Siracusa Sicily
As of 2005, part of this beautiful island became a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica.
Its name (Ortigia) derives from the ancient greek ortyx meaning “quail”. Why, I am still trying to figure out myself 🙂
The size of the island is no bigger than 1 km² and approximately 4,500 people call Ortigia home.
To understand the origins of Syracuse, the island is extremely important, as historians attest that settlement occurred here before the mainland!
In fact, the first settlers were the ancient civilization of the Corinthian’s.
The following is a great quote which highlights the importance of Ortigia.
Historic Syracuse offers a unique testimony to the development of Mediterranean civilization over three millennia. – UNESCO.org
Exploring the Ortigia
Ortigia is connected to the Siracusa mainland by two bridges, Ponte Umbertino and Ponte Santa Lucia.
As you reach the island, you’ll come to the majestic ruins of the Greek Temple of Apollo, where directly opposite you will find the markets.
Ortigia has many gems to discover and the best advice I can give is to walk the perimeter of the island.
I did not have map nor did I rely on a guidebook, we simply took to the streets and followed the road to see what we would come across.
You’ll enjoy beautiful architecture, gorgeous small streets, the ‘Solariums’ (aka ‘beaches’), the churches (of course) and the incredible views.
As per my usual, not having organized any tours and wanted to just discover the island, we ‘stumbled’ upon the famous Ortigia markets, which are impossible to miss!
I definitely you suggest walking through the markets and then follow the perimeter and start exploring!
Where we stayed
I booked at Hotel Alfeo just 200m from l’Isola di Ortigia for two (2) reasons:
- It was actually 40-50.00EUR cheaper than the hotels on the island.
- It was a 4 star hotel that had great reviews and an awesome view from the room balcony (see video above).
Where we ate
For lunch, I highly recommend that you head to the markets and enjoy a special sandwich at Caseificio Borderi – discovered purely by chance.
In reality it was hard to miss with the long line-up at the front.
Do note that it is incredibly well priced and you will not regret the 30-40 minute wait! Yeap, it is that popular with the locals and tourists alike.
I paid 5.00EUR for my sandwich and I asked the super friendly guy to create one for me – so he did!
For a meal ‘on the water’, after what felt forever, came across Zefiro Lounge Bar! The food is well priced and good quality, considering it is a Lounge Bar.
In regards to wine, I would personally recommend the biological Èureka by the Marabino winery.
Expect exotic fruits and persistent minerality on the nose, with a captivating taste!
Getting to Siracusa from Catania
From Catania to Siracusa, the trip is approximately 1 hour 15min (more or less) with Interbus*.
A one way ticket is 6.20EUR in a huge, air-conditioned bus, while a return ticket is 9.60EUR.
We found that the prices was incredibly reasonable and the buses relatively on time, which was a bit of a shock.
During summer months, buses run every 30 minutes!
*the website is in Italian but it has the option to translate the page using Google Translate on the top right*
Car or no car, tight schedule or not, Siracusa Sicily was a must, even with only 24 hours.
Do you think I made the right choice? 😉
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